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Conference on Modernity (2016)

Modern Matters: Negotiating the Future of Everyday Life in South Asia | 20-22 September 2016 in Lund, Sweden
The Swedish South Asian Studies Network (SASNET) organized a conference entitled “Modern Matters: Negotiating the Future of Everyday Life in South Asia” at Lund University on 20-22 September 2016. The conference attracted more than 60 researchers, many from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Interested audience for the keynote session
South Asia has been described as in a state of flux. While it is part of the soaring ‘Asian century’ led by China and India, it remains on the periphery of its promising future. India is celebrated as an attractive investment destination for its impressive growth rate, and for moving out of what has been called the waiting room of history and into the modern era at an accelerated pace. However, large parts of South Asia, including some regions within India, are still defined by the development agendas and interventions of a previous era. The region which is home to one-fifth of the world’s population has its largest youth demography, is celebrated for its demographic dividend. But this also raises concerns about the low investment in education, job training and public health. The uplifting narratives of call centers, shopping malls, new modes of leisure, and the global lifestyles of technologically–adept consumer-citizens contrast with shortages in material goods, services, and employment opportunities. Everyday life in South Asia is typified by these wide gaps in wealth, abundance and consumption.

How is notion of modernity experienced

This workshop explores what it means to consider oneself modern, or outside the limits of modernity, in an extremely diverse region. How is the notion of modernity experienced, contested, and negotiated in South Asia within the broader promise and hope of the Asian century? South Asian modernity will be considered in terms of regional, national, and global societies by pursuing the following, larger questions:

 1. Can we discover regional understandings of modernity in South Asia? If so, how do they differ, and what do they have in common?

 2. What are the specific discourses related to global modernity in South Asian societies?

 3. How are class, caste, ethnicity, religion, and gender related in contemporary South Asian societies?

 4. What resistance to modernity can we find in South Asian contexts? What categories are involved, and which arguments are raised?

 5. How might violence relate to South Asian modernity?

One of the panels

Eight panels (more information)

– Panel 1. Religion and Modernity in South Asia
Chair: Clemens Cavallin, Religious Studies, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

– Panel 2. Mapping Subaltern Modernities in Neoliberal India 
Chairs: Alf Gunvald Nilsen, Kenneth Bo Nielsen and Anand Vaidya, Department of Sociology, University of Bergen, Norway

– Panel 3. Beyond the Desirable: Critical Perspectives on Media-Modernity
Chairs: Britta Ohm, Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland, Per Ståhlberg, Department of Media and Communication Studies, Södertörn University, Sweden and Vibodh Parthasarathi, Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Milia Islamia, India.

– Panel 4. Staging Marriage and Modernity among the Middle Classes in South Asia
Chairs: Anindita Datta, Univeristy of Delhi, India and Ajay Bailey, University of Groningen, Netherlands

– Panel 5. The Transformation of Caste
Chairs: Staffan Lindberg, Lund University & Neil Webster, DIIS, Copenhagen, Denmark

– Panel 6. Youthful Modernities: Negotiating the Past, Present and the Future
Chairs: Ravinder Kaur, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India, Rajni Palriwala, University of Delhi, India and and Sonalde Desai, University of Maryland, USA

– Panel 7. Women and Gender in South Asian Modernity: Vulnerabilities and Violence
Chairs: Ulrika Andersson, Lund University, Anna Lindberg, Lund University & Nishi Mitra, TISS, India

– Panel 8. Open panel
SASNET organized an open panel for papers that did not fit any of the other panels but made an orginal contribution to understandings of modernity in South Asia.
Chairs: Henrik Chetan Aspengren, Linnaeus University & J R Jishnu, Kerala University, India


Three public lectures

Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty from the Department of History, University of Chicago, held a keynote speech on Modernity and the Nonhuman in South Asia” on Tuesday 20 September, 13:15 - 14:30. Venue: Nya Festsalen at AF.

Modernity and the Non-Human in South Asia - Dipesh Chakrabarty

Another two plenary session seminars were open to the public. On Wednesday 21 September, 14.00-15.00, Associate Professor Sumi Madhok from the Gender Institute at London School of Economics (LSE) held a lecture entitled “Is a Non-Hegemonic Human Rights Talk Possible?” –
Is a Non-Hegemonic Human Rights talk Possible? - Sumi Madhok
; and on the final day of the conference, on Thursday 22 September, 11:30 - 12:30, Professor Sasanka Perera, Vice President for the South Asian University (SAU) in New Delhi, India, held a lecture entitled South Asia as an Idea and a Problem of Modernity” – 
South Asia as an Idea and a Problem of Modernity - Sasanka Perera